5 Ways to Keep Your Brain from Frying this Finals Week

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A warm breeze blows, birds chirp and then you remember that you have five papers due, three tests and two projects that could literally make or break your final grade. The best part? You have absolutely no motivation to do any of it. Brutality comes hand in hand with the end of semesters: your brain is fried, you slept a solid eight hours over the past four days and you can practically taste the summer cocktails you plan to drink on the beach. How many papers can someone write and stay sane?

1. Stay Organized

Laundry sits everywhere, your notes are scattered and one of your practice Physics tests currently doubles as a coaster for your coffee mug. Staying organized feels tough enough when things aren’t crazy, but pile on the assignments and ramp up the expectations and you might as well live in a zoo. Take back control—spend 10 or 15 minutes to clean up your space. Wash your clothes and take out those the food wrappers and empty Starbucks cups. You’ll feel better and more prepared to tackle the real work in front of you. “[Students should] list things to do, break it up, and then estimate, and allocate their time appropriately,” said American University Psychology Professor Dr. Noemí Enchautegui-de-Jesús.

2. Change Your Scenery

You really like studying in that corner of the library, huh? Well maybe you should move on. Did you know mixing up the places where you study can increase productivity? Don’t suddenly abandon the study spot that works for you, but don’t hesitate to explore your campus and introduce a little adventure into your life. “I would liken in to working out, if you always do the same workout every time, you’re going to get bored of it, and then you’re going to say that you don’t want to go for a run. But, if someone asks if you want to play tennis instead, that’s a workout but it sounds different and more fun. Just be mindful of what works for you,” said Associate Director of Undergraduate Programs at American University Kogod School of Business Gregory Bailey.

3. Let Your Brain Rest

You studied calculus for five torturous hours. You can’t tell if you’re hallucinating or if your Starbucks cup is indeed moving on its own. Even if you’re on a roll studying limits, you need to take a break. “I know this really varies by professors, but one thing I like to tell my students and particularly in my classes, is that most of the work is really behind you at this point,” said Professor Rodger Streittmatter from American University’s School of Communication. Although this truly depends on the class, it feels good to know that this (hopefully) rings true for some of your courses.

4. Fulfill Your Basic Needs

Sometimes all it takes is just the right bite of a delectable, juicy taco or a square of creamy chocolate to reinvigorate your senses. Or maybe it’s giving yourself that extra hour of sleep instead of cramming more for your French test. Everyone tells us to get more sleep but we laugh and continue to stay up for hours on end. There just always seems to be more important things to do and places to be. “Learning about how you take care of yourself while you’re going through something like that is also a process. You might be somebody who just doesn’t do very well if you don’t get sleep. So if you say ‘I’m going to pull an all nighter to write this paper and then I’m going to take a final the next day,’ and you fall apart because your body just doesn’t work very well that way, that’s not going to go very well for you,” said Psychologist Traci E. Callandrillo, Ph.D.

5. Think About the Big Picture

Life after college is quickly approaching. Shocking, I know. Consuming yourself with grades, GPAs and finals seems far too easy, so realize that in the scheme of things, life will go on if you bomb your chem final or if your project really doesn’t go as planned (you knew when people didn’t laugh at your opening joke that things were only going downhill). Callandrillo said, “Pay attention to what worked and what didn’t work at the end of this semester, and use that information to start fresh next semester.” Callandrillo went on to remind students that at the end of the day, we are just taking courses, not our life.

Emma is a Sophomore at American University in Washington DC studying Strategic Communications and Business. She loves photography, swimming, being outdoors, and searching for the perfect sushi roll.

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